Child Psychologist and Drexel Department Head Dr. Brian Daly Explores the Adolescent Mental Health Crisis

Welcome to Bridging the Gap, an interview series that brings together healthcare thought leaders to discuss innovations helping organizations bridge the gap between physical and behavioral health. In this episode, NeuroFlow CEO Chris Molaro spoke with Dr. Brian Daly, a child psychologist and Department Head of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Drexel University. Dr. Daly is a practicing child and adolescent psychologist and his research explores pain management, sleep, ADHD, and more in child and adolescent populations.

He and Chris discuss the rise in mental health needs among children and adolescents, and in particular, the rise of suicidal ideation. Dr. Daly provides strategies for parents to support their children through complex issues like bullying and social media usage.

Tune in below, and check out some of the top soundbites from this episode.

On the differences between child and adolescent psychology:

Dr. Daly: When we think about clinical child and adolescent psychology, you’re still gonna hit on the big domains, what’s happening in their social life, what’s happening in their academic life, and what’s happening in their emotional life. If you think about the broad domains, we’re always evaluating those, whether it’s a five-year-old that I’m seeing or a 14-year-old that I’m seeing.

I will say what’s happening academically, socially, within the family, or even emotionally with the five-year-old, it’s going to look quite different than what’s happening with the 15-year-old. . . 

If you want a child to get better, particularly, let’s say at six or seven—if I just work with the child, they’ll get a little bit better, but probably not to the point where we want them to; I need the parents on board. I found in my work with parents that they are on board usually, but they’re stuck at the time, which is why they’re coming to see me. In many cases, they’ve tried a lot of different things. It just hasn’t worked as well. And then that’s my job to work with the family, work with the child, work with the parents, and chart out a path for them to implement some things in the home environment or school environment.

Then when you get up to the adolescent years, there is a shift. Because again, who’s the agent of change there? The parents still have to be part of that solution, but most often, you’re working a bit more directly with the adolescent. You just have a different level of cognitive development, a different level of insight.



On social media’s impact on adolescent mental health and how to address it:

Chris: Have you heard of Jonathan Haidt, the author of Coddling the American Mind? He talks about how we have age limits for driving, for drinking alcohol, for buying cigarettes, all these sorts of things, and he proposes. . . that we have age limits for social media and for the internet.

It sounds like that might be contrary to what you’re saying, though. Do you see any benefit to that sort of strategy?

Dr. Daly: I’m not sure. Sometimes that can be taking a hammer and hitting the nail approach. I think if parents can have ongoing conversations right with their kids—again, it’s not a perfect answer, but I think it’s better than what’s happening now. We have a one-off conversation or two-off conversations with our kids about social media. Then things are happening on social media that we’re totally not aware of. We’re not checking in with our kids; we’re not monitoring it as well as we should. And then, before we know it, we’re having to deal with a much bigger problem and once it becomes a bigger problem, it’s always a little bit harder to deal with.

One of the reasons I got into clinical child psychology is because of prevention. That’s what I like to gear my intervention strategies around is how do you prevent something from becoming a bigger problem because you address it earlier. In this case, with social media, having those conversations early, having them often, revisiting them and understanding that there’s gonna be new complexities to some of the conversation as they get older is key.

I think it can be a challenge as parents, particularly as kids get older. They’re actually more reluctant to have these types of conversations. But that’s probably the ideal time to continue to engage in these conversations. So I think the age restriction is maybe taking a solution or applying a solution that I think is not going to work for as many people as we would like to think it would work for.

So in the absence of that, having these ongoing conversations  is another strategy that I think we need. Technology is advancing faster than we can keep up with in many ways, which again just suggests that we should be having more of these conversations.

Ellen Harvey is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at NeuroFlow. She has over nine years of experience writing about technology and innovation for business leaders. At NeuroFlow, she writes about prominent trends in behavioral health and illustrates how NeuroFlow's technology helps healthcare, payor, and government organizations improve the well-being of their constituents.

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